Sapling Learning > Forums (Discussion Boards)

Document created by Digital Support on Jan 25, 2017Last modified by Digital Support on Jul 27, 2017
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Forums provide a location to post messages to your students. Depending on the type of forum, your students may be able to post as well.

Forum types

  • News forum: Instructors can post new topics and post replies to existing topics. Students can read but not post in the news forum. There can only be one news forum per course.
  • A single simple discussion: A single topic, all on one page. Useful for short, focused discussions.
  • Standard forum for general use: An open forum where anyone can start a new topic at any time. This is the best general-purpose forum.
  • Each person posts one discussion: Each person can post exactly one new discussion topic (everyone can reply to them though). This is useful when you want each student to start a discussion about, say, their reflections on the week's topic, and everyone else responds to these.
  • Q And A Forum: The Q & A forum requires students to post their perspectives before viewing other students' postings. After the initial posting, students can view and respond to others' postings. This feature allows equal initial posting opportunity among all students, thus encouraging original and independent thinking.

Adding a Forum

With the exception of the News forum, a forum can be added as follows.

  1. Scroll to the desired section of the course and select Add an activity...Forum.
  1. Give the forum a name.

  1. Select a forum type (see above for types).
  1. Explain the purpose of the forum in the Forum introduction.

  1. The remaining settings are optional. If you want to learn more about a setting, click the help with this topic icon next to that setting. Otherwise, you can ignore the remaining settings.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save and return to course.
User-added image

To add or remove the News forum, you must add or delete the Latest news block in the right side-bar of the main course page.


If a user is "subscribed" to a forum, they will receive an email notification for each new post. Each forum has an instructor option to Force everyone to be subscribed. If you don't force, each student can choose for themselves whether to subscribe to that forum or not.

When making a post, you'll see an option to Mail now. When unchecked, the system will wait 30 minutes before emailing subscribers in case you catch a mistake you need to edit. When checked, the system will email subscribers immediately. Either way, an email of the post will be sent to all students who are subscribed to that forum.


If you are using groups in your course, you'll be able to post different messages to different groups and/or restrict students to working within their own group.

  1. First, make sure that the Group mode of the forum is set to Separate groups.

You can set this option when you first create the forum, or you may edit it later. To edit an existing forum, click on it, then click Forum in the upper right.

  1. Once configured, continue to or open the forum.
  2. To post to only one group, select the desired group from the Separate groups dropdown before adding a new topic or question. This will also restrict student replies and posts, if applicable, to their own group. To restrict the students' interaction to just their group but still allow them to see all posts for the other groups, choose Visible groups instead.
  3. Make sure that each student in your course is assigned to a group.

IMPORTANT: If you are not using groups in your course, be sure to set the Group mode to No groups.


Why can't my students make posts or replies?

  • First, make sure you are using a Forum type that allows student interaction. The News forum, for example, is limited to instructor interaction only. Some forum types allow students to reply to existing topics but they can't start new ones. Other forum types allow students to post new topics as well as reply.
  • If you are not using groups in your course, be sure to set the Group mode to No groups.
You can set this option when you first create the forum, or you may edit it later. To edit an existing forum, click on it, then click Forum in the upper right.
  • If you are using groups in your course, you may still want to set the Group mode to No groups as described above. Group options are only necessary if you want to restrict students from seeing or posting to certain topics based on their group, but otherwise just complicate the matter. For example, if the Group mode is set to Visible groups or Separate groups and you make a post to the whole forum rather than to a specific group, students will not be able to reply to it.